Welcome to “Good Morning, Illini Nation,” your daily dose of college basketball news from Illini beat writer and AP Top 25 voter Scott Richey (click here to reach him). He’ll offer up insights every morning until practice tips off.
On Sundays, we’ll dip into our vast News-Gazette archives and stroll Memory Lane. Today: Considered state of the art when it opened in 1998, the Ubben Basketball Complex is starting to show its age. That’s why the UI has announced plans to renovate the practice home of its men’s and women’s basketball teams, located just east of State Farm Center.
Still, Ubben remains useful as players at this week’s NCAA Basketball Academy can attest. Besides practice, it has hosted an array of events, from press conferences to clinics to photo shoots to, heck, even Chief Illiniwek auditions.
A tour in pictures:
The main purpose of the Richard T. Ubben Basketball Complex, of course, is to give the Illini a 24-hour, 365-day place to hoop. Before it was built, the men's and women's teams traveled all over campus to work out, from the ARC (IMPE) to Huff Hall to State Farm Center. Another benefit, as this Oct. 13, 2018, photo shows: an upper level that allows spectators a fabulous view of the court.
The introduction of Bruce Weber as new coach on April 30, 2003, was a hot ticket.
The hallways of Ubben have served as a backdrop to many of our photo shoots. Here, freshmen Deron Williams and Dee Brown took time out on Sept. 27, 2002, at the request of N-G photographer John Dixon.
Our Heather Coit photographed a highly productive senior class - Frank Williams, Lucas Johnson, Cory Bradford, Robert Archibald and Damir Krupalija - on Feb. 21, 2002, days before they were feted on Senior Night.
Visits by high-profile recruits after packed the place (when NCAA rules allowed). On Oct, 25, 2003, fans were shoulder-to-shoulder on both floors to cheer on Peoria prep star Shaun Livingston. He later committed to Duke before deciding to enter the NBA straight out of high school.
The coaches have offices on the second floor of Ubben. That's where Loren Tate and Brand Underwood taped an episode of Tate's podcast shortly after the coach had settled into his new digs after taking the job in 2017.
One of the most memorable celebrations took place just outside Ubben: Thousands of fans lined up to welcome home Bruce Weber's Illini after their heartstopping win against Arizona to secure a trip to the 2005 Final Four. Our Holly Hart stayed up late and foud, l to r, grad students Adam Thomason, Mei Hou and Maureen Gunning in rare form.
News-Gazette photographer John Dixon directs Khalid Lewis during a photo shoot at Ubben on Sept. 9, 2015. The team holds its annual Media Day at the facility - including individual portraits used by The News-Gazette to tell player stories throughout each season.
Part of Media Day: the team photo. Here, Rod Cardinal organizes the Illini at an Oct. 14, 2008, group shot.
The walls are decorated with banners, everything from Big Ten titles to Final Four appearances. Team and individual trophies, too, can be found inside Ubben.
The space isn't just for practicing. A women's Chalk Talk played out in Ubben on Sept. 1, 2015. The annual event raised money for Coaches vs. Cancer and helped participants understand the life of an Illinois basketball player.
The UI women occupy to west half of Ubben. That's where photographer Rick Danzl worked with coach Nancy Fahey on July 19, 2019.
In July 2018, the UI announced plans to renovate and expand Ubben that would more than double the square footage while giving the 20-year-old facility a state-of-the-art transformation. The cost: $30 million. 'This building changed the game for Illinois basketball, and we’re prepared to change it once again,' AD Josh Whitman said.